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Norway: Home base of the polar explorers

In this modern land you are never far from the wilds of Nature

Great trip to Norway with wife Donna and son Ben to visit family last summer. My late father Leif grew up on the fjords, rowing all summer to get around and skiing to school in winter. He took his family back often when we were kids.

Leif’s brother Teddy picked us up at the train station. At 91 he still gets up early to walk the dog, plays golf twice a week in season and sails with his son Thor.

Thor, who takes his motorbike to the airport, is in better shape now that he is trying to keep up with his partner. She runs, bikes, skis competitively, whatever is going. His older sister Elizabeth, a retired teacher, starts every spring by hiking in the mountains with an old friend. Sister Marianne walks to work most days—through a graveyard.

In Oslo, Thor took us to the Fram museum to see the ship that took the polar explorers Nansen and Amundsen on their voyages of discovery. Using dogs to pull the sledges, Amundsen beat Scott to the South Pole and made it back to the ship. Scott and his party, using horses, died of exposure and starvation on the way back. Amundsen was also the first to navigate the Northwest Passage.

As boys both Nansen and Amundsen slept outdoors in the cold and went on long ski trips to toughen themselves up. They had a sense of destiny about their future explorations. When they started a trip there was no guarantee they would return. At the least, it would be tough. Amundsen learned a lot from the native people of the Canadian north. He respected their knowledge of their frozen world and their culture.

We visited the college where my father studied forestry before and after the war. It is now a blooming university of biological sciences. The trees are huge. Norway is a wealthy high-tech country now, fueled by offshore oil and gas. But the fjords are still deep, the mountains high and the winters long. There is that sense of closeness to the Earth that we all need.

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Uploaded by David Holt